A folktale is simply something to which we can assign lots of meaning, but little history or documentation of the origin of these often short stories and pieces of text. There are certain levels by which local folk traditions can be assigned to medicine and to plants. This is as true for the Hudson Valley as it is for people residing in Appalachia, the Adirondacks, or the Catskills. The question is, which of that folklore can be assigned to this region, and which folklore traditions are more some kind of offshoot of other traditions brought into the region from elsewhere.
To assign local meaning to folklore traditions, one of several features has to define the tradition in question. First, we have to know the source for this special tradition. Is it something that came from an old time family tradition perhaps, and if so, did this particular part of that tradition evolve locally into some new legend? Second, we have to determine how this particular folklore fits in with local social and cultural behaviors; is it an individual’s interpretation that is under review or is it something that can be assigned to multiple families and perhaps even the entire hamlet or town. Third, we have to determine how this folklore has survived over the years. Is it a one time claim or belief or is it something that was duplicated and made popular elsewhere in the country, either immediately or due to the passage of time.
Folktales normally a form of written history that can be hard to trace. The more brief the folktale, the more difficult it is to find its origins, and the more difficult it is to identify duplications or copycat-like folklore events in history. The most brief of folktales, when we think about, are very hard to study because they are hold to look up even using some sort of indexing system. A simple folklore statement with just seven words has some words with direct testimonial and contextual meaning, other words with multiple meanings, and some with no relationship to the meaning of the tradition at all. Should this folktale be symbolic of what it is meant to represent, due to the passage of time we lose the meaning of these words and their appropriate context. Few people today read any of the traditional Mother Goose folktales and immediately think about the fact that these were originally published as some sort of political statement again the British government, its leaders and politicians. London Bridge was burning down, but not so much due any symbolism of the Bridge to Great Britain’s local failure s. This story was meaningful due to the image it left us with long after the memories of the government’s mistreatment of citizens was long gone.
Numerous folktales are seen as well appearing more a true stories with some sort of obvious rhyme and reason to the reader, no doubt with hidden meaning and reasoning included as well for those skeptics about the ruling oligarchy during some parts of our early Colonial history. The legends of domesticated crops related to this region’s early New Netherlands heritage include stories about how the first grape could only be brought in and permanently turned into a farmable crop due to the wise Dutchman who determined that the European grape needed to be grafted onto the native grapevine in order to survive the diseases native to Hudson valley soil. Exactly when ‘the tree that grows in Brooklyn’ (Ailanthus glandulosa) made its way into the valley is uncertain. It was grown in Brooklyn in order to calm the spirits of people residing in a nearby gaol/asylum setting. Perhaps it came to the Hudson Valley as one of many events designed to make local parks more shady, or perhaps local lands heavily grazed and fielded by farmers, with fewer and fewer shade trees remaining as time passed.
There are some historical items over the years that I have uncovered that provide just a tidbit more detail into the local history. These are covered in this separate region due to their variable histories and meanings. Perhaps this section deserves to be placed somewhere else, under some sort of arts and literature section. But since I don’t have such a section, I place these folktale-based recipes here.